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The Finger of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 14, 2021 4:00 am

The Finger of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 14, 2021 4:00 am

In the midst of his royal banquet, King Belshazzar was literally confronted by God’s hand writing a cryptic message on the palace wall. Discover what this extraordinary event teaches us about finding refuge in God, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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In Daniel chapter 5, a startling event took place. During King Belshazzar's great feast, the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote a message on a palace wall.

Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg takes us through this unusual incident and shows us the lessons we can learn from it. I wrote in my notes as a heading, and I have a number of headings I'll perhaps tell you as I go along. My first heading was, putting it in the mouth of Belshazzar, It's my party, and I'll drink if I want to.

Secondly, I wrote down, quoting Luther, "'Tis written by his finger," because verse 5 says, immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared. Third heading in my notes, Even big kings need to listen to their mothers. My next heading was, Belshazzar shows no respect despite his predicament.

Belshazzar shows no respect despite his predicament. Then Daniel was brought in before the king, and the king answered and said to Daniel, You're that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah? I've heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now, if you can read the writings. So he's not absolutely convinced. It is quite amazing, isn't it? Arrogance is amazing. This fellow has started off with a great display of his majesty. He has been reduced to a quivering mass of humanity. He is now confronted by the servant of the Most High God, and he's still arrogant. He's still dismissive. The one person who holds out the possibility of an answer for him, he continues to dismiss in this way. We often say, don't we, can you believe that people react and act in that way?

Well, it is godlessness, the spirit of the age. Straightforward talk from Daniel. That's my next heading. I don't know if any of you are tracking with me, but straightforward talk from Daniel. Number one, he says, You can keep your stuff, but I will read the writing on the wall. And then—and this is part of the literary development of the story, and this is those of you who do English and who do creative writing— you can learn from these Old Testament narratives, because he is going to tell him, but then there is a delay. And the delay is there purposefully to provide a little history lesson that is necessary, but it also creates, in a literary sense, anticipation in the reader. I will give you the interpretation. Okay, what is it?

Well, hang on a minute. The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father, the kingship and greatness and glory and majesty and so on. In other words, he says that history is important if you would have paid attention to it. God was the one who put your father in place, because he is the God who sets up kingdoms and who brings them down. He is the God whom Nebuchadnezzar, by the end of his time, acknowledges that he humbles those who walk in pride.

And he says, verse 19 and following—you can read it again for yourself— and because of the greatness that he gave him, all the peoples in the nations and so on trembled before him. If he wanted to kill somebody, he killed him. If he wanted to keep him alive, he kept him alive.

Whatever he wanted to do, if he would raise them up, that would be fine, or humble them, that would be fine. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne and his glory was taken from him. And then he continues along the line. And in verse 23, he makes the point. But you, that is you, Belshazzar, you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And then he says, and this is what you've done. The God, verse 23, in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Now, this really is pivotal, isn't it? Even though, says Daniel, you know all this, you haven't humbled your heart, you have simply vaunted your pride. A pride that has then issued in sacrilege, a sacrilege displayed in the idolatry of he and his friends. Pride is at the very heart of things from the fall of Satan to the garden of Eden and beyond.

Every pastoral collapse that I have observed in my 32 years here in America, actually, if push comes to shove, may be traced to one thing. Pride. Pride. Because the pastor has decided that because he's preached it, he's actually believed it and lived it.

And unless he has believed it and lived it, then he has no right preaching it. It'd be better to be struck dumb than to be brought down as a result of the arrogance of his heart. Now, you knew these things, but you haven't humbled your heart.

You vaunted your pride. And then, just three more, from his presence, the hand was sent. Verse 24, then from his presence, this God in whose hand is your breath, whose are all your ways. The only reason you have synovial fluid in your knee joints, Belshazzar, is because God is an amazing creator.

The only reason that you wake up in the morning and your eyelids open is because God not only created everything, but he sustains everything by his powerful word. And the God of heaven, from heaven, this hand has appeared, and this writing has now been inscribed. Three words, each used for a different weight, used on a scale for weighing precious metals. Many, many, Tekel and Parson. This is the interpretation of the matter. Not difficult to understand.

He turns the nouns into verbs. Numbered, weighed, divided. Numbered. Your days are numbered. Not just your days, but the days of the kingdom. God has numbered them, is bringing them to an end. Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.

You just are completely on the wrong side of the equation. And your kingdom is divided and is given to the Medes and the Persians. Now, how much of a pause there is for breath in between verse 28 and 29, I don't know. But my next heading, and it's just a heading with nothing attaching to it, was simply I noted that Belshazzar is a man of his word. Credit where credit's due. I don't know about you. But if I had received, if I'd been through this ordeal and I'd brought this fellow in and this was the best he could do and give me this kind of report, I might just have had his head taken off if I was Belshazzar just for the fun of it.

Just as a reaction, a knee-jerk reaction. It's quite remarkable. Then Belshazzar gave the command and Daniel got the new outfit, got the new possession, got the proclamation throughout the kingdom. But then I wrote down in my notes, God keeps his word too. And that very night, you will notice, that very night, verse 30, Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. What God said would happen, happened. Was there time for repentance? Did Belshazzar, in the ensuing hours, minutes, moments, fall down on his face and acknowledge that God is God? We don't know.

But we do know that he died. When you read the ancient sources, the record there says that the Medo-Persian army, in its invasion, directed water from the Euphrates, water which ran underneath the walls and into the city. They directed it into a marshland, making it possible for their soldiers to wade through the shallow water, down the riverbed, under the wall, into the city, into the palace, and they killed the king. Belshazzar means, O Bell, the big deity of Babylon. O Bell, protect the king.

What an irony. There was no protection. You see, there is no refuge from God, except the refuge that is found in God. There is no way to run and hide from him.

All we can do is run to him. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are saved.

Once again, what an encouragement for the fearful exiles. One of my friends was saying to me the other morning, you know, these are great stories, but what about all the white space? What about all the stuff we don't know about, all the routine? And I've been thinking about that ever since.

It's true, isn't it? We've got the high peaks, as it were, the dramatic moments of this apocalyptic. But meanwhile, mums and dads and grandparents and so on were going about their business. They were getting up in the morning as exiles and living as exiles and doing what they did. And praying to the God of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, O God, help us. Help us be true to you. Help us to hold the line.

Help us not to be completely undone by the pressures that are about us as a result of the interference of those who are our oppressors. So presumably, if we had been there, we would have, when we went for the equivalent of coffee in the morning down to the local Starbucks, we would have found somebody in there saying, did you hear about last night? And we would have said, last night? No, I didn't hear about last night. Oh, yeah, a big banquet up at the palace. Amazing. Fantastic. One of my friends, he works in there on security.

Well, there's nothing unusual in that. He said, wait a minute, I haven't told you the whole story. Belshazzar became a walking nightmare.

I mean, they said that, well, I can't even tell you what they said. But he was a goner, and you know, he's dead. He's dead. And some wisecrack from over the corner says, well, so what, he's dead? There'll be another one just as bad as him that'll come around.

We'll still be stuck here. There's always a happy fellow, you know, to pick it up. Can't have a moment to rejoice in the fact that the one guy's dead. If someone says, yeah, there'll be another one right behind. Don't you worry, you know.

Which, of course, is perfectly true. And another one behind him, and another one behind him. And fast-forward all the way down for these miserable kings.

And now, says Matthew, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king, there came wise men from the east, the Chaldeans, the intentors, the scribblers. These people that don't know what's going on. Where are you going? I don't know. I'm going. Yeah. What are you following? Well, it's up.

No, it's up there. Well, let's just keep going. And eventually they arrive. Hey, fellas, what are you looking for? I'm looking for the king. There's a king?

Hmm. I don't like kings. I don't like the sound of that, said Herod. Why don't you track him down and come back and let me know, because I'd like to worship him as well. And furious, furious, a handmaiden of Satan seeks to destroy the work of God in its infancy by the slaughter of the innocents.

Time elapses. John the Baptist says, you think what I'm doing is good? Wait till you see this guy. I baptize with water. He baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He actually is going to do things that you have never, ever imagined would take place. And Jesus is then immediately confronted by Satan in the wilderness. He is then confronted by the demons. He is then confronted by sickness and illness and everything else.

And remember what he says? If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Of course it is by the finger of God.

By the very hand of God. Here he is. You see, loved ones, either Jesus really is incarnate God or he's not. And if he is, then he must be reckoned with. And if he's not, then we are each engaged in the biggest religious contract that the world has ever seen.

We are not just fastening on to a religious notion which we are happy to secure for ourselves and others may do what they please. We are going to our Jewish friends and saying to them, do you know that there is an end to your story? That Jesus is Yeshua. He is the Messiah of God.

Can we tell you about him? You believe he is and I believe he is. We can't both be right. To our Muslim friends, whether we meet them in taxis or whether they are doing obstetrics for our daughters and our granddaughters, we say to them we have so many things in common with you in terms of family and moral purity and the notion of a God. But do you know that Jesus paid the penalty for sin and that the symbol is not scales but is actually a cross broken under the feet of a triumphant and resurrected Jesus?

You say this isn't true. You say it scales. We say it's a cross.

We can't both be right. To our Hindu friends when we meet them on the ski slopes or whatever else it is or the Buddhists with no God at all and the Dalai Lama's birthday and his birthday cakes that he can't eat because he can't get a gown big enough to cover him if he eats all the cakes. All of those people.

We're going to them in kindness and in love to say, listen, we're staking our eternal destiny on the fact that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that makes a difference to everything. Everything. Our view of politics, our view of history, our view of science, our view of life, everything.

Loved ones, I hope this is helpful to you. I hope that we can bow down underneath this. Do you remember Khrushchev and his shoe? Do you remember him banging that shoe? Funny little man. I used to worry that the Russians were going to fire one at us. Those were the good days.

When the Polaris submarines were in the Holy Lock of Scotland, when the Western Alliance was preserved as it were, when we understood what was going on. I don't worry about that anymore. No, I just worry about what airport I'm in, what terminal I'm standing in, what street corner I'm on, what marathon I'm trying to run in.

Do you worry about that? What about North Korea if it arms? What about Iran? What about ISIS? What about the horrible, immoral revolution that we have lived through in the last 50 years?

What about the fact that our country is upside down morally? What are you going to do? You're going to read Daniel. And you're going to remind yourself of what we've been saying repetitively, admittedly, but purposefully. I'm now finishing with two quotes from the Psalms that came to my mind again this morning. That's not a rhetorical device, incidentally. For those of you who are saying, oh yeah, I'm sure that's the way he closes, he says, it came to mind this morning.

No, no, no, no, no. It came to mind this morning. Incidentally, the verse that came to mind this morning is the verse that Byron Nelson carved on individual pieces of wood, which he gave to all the members of the United States Ryder Cup team when they went to play at the K Club in Dublin. And every one of them, Tiger and the rest, were given a little piece of wood.

Yeah, they got a Rolex watch, they got a bunch of stuff, there's no question about that, they had all the business, but he said he wanted them all to have this verse. Psalm 18 and verse 29. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.

Now he gave it to them to turn their thoughts to the Psalms, not to tell them that this was a mechanism whereby they could win the Ryder Cup, because they didn't. This God, his way is perfect. The word of the Lord proves true.

He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. By my God, I can run through a troop. With God's help, I can jump over a wall. Well, some of us are having difficulty just jumping down off a wall, let alone jumping over a wall, but there's a word of encouragement. And the last verse, actually, is two verses from Psalm 118.

And I always remember this because my boss, when I was in Edinburgh, he gave a little talk on this, and it's stayed with me ever since. The psalmist says, I was pushed hard so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Some of us can identify with that progression. Some of us are actually here and we're pushed hard.

We're not necessarily talking about what's really involved, but pushed hard, falling, helped, strengthened, singing, saved. The story of the exiles, the story of all the exiles, our story in a destabilized world. We are all, every one of us, invited to find refuge in an almighty God. That's from today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. We hope you'll keep listening.

Alistair is going to be right back to close in prayer. Now, if you have ever requested one of our recommended books, you know that we spend a lot of time, put great care into selecting these books. We choose resources that will supplement the teaching you hear on Truth for Life and help you grow deeper in your faith. And I mention this because you can own all of the books we make available throughout the year by becoming a monthly Truth Partner. When you sign up and give a monthly donation of $20 or more, you're able to go online each month or give us a call and request our featured titles.

We'll mail them to you as our way of saying thank you for your partnership. So if you have yet to join the Truth Partner team, we hope you'll make today the day you do. You'll not only build yourself a great library, but more importantly, you'll be part of the team that makes Truth for Life possible for people all around the world. You can sign up online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. Don't forget to ask for Alistair's new book, which is called Brave by Faith, God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World.

That book is available for one more day when you support Truth for Life as a Truth Partner or when you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now let's join with Alistair in prayer. Father, thank you again for the truth of your word and grant that that which is of yourself may find a resting place in our hearts. I pray for some of us who actually are pushed hard at the moment.

The external, the sissitudes of life, the things that are going on inside of us, perhaps with our families, whatever it might be. Lord, we pray that we might in confidence and in childlike faith take our stand as we sang this morning. By faith we will look to the future. By faith we will rest in your promises. Be with us now in the hours of this day. May great grace be upon us all, for we pray in Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. Join us tomorrow as we'll learn why familiar stories from the Old Testament like the story of Daniel in the lion's den can often present us with some surprising challenges. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-04 20:44:16 / 2023-11-04 20:53:08 / 9

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